Since our first sojourn to Zola in April, we have been jonesing to go back. The food, the service, the ambience… it’s an amazing place and Debra Paquette is an amazing chef.
This time we went for our anniversary. Keifel told them it was for that special occasion when he made our reservations. Our table was in the garden room (so much nicer than where we were seated last time) in the corner by the windows. Valentine glitter was scattered across the tablecloth and twinkling in the candlelight. The hostess wished us a Happy Anniversary as she seated us and our server was on point and came for our drink orders almost immediately.
We started with water and warm breads, a carmelized onion and rosemary foccacia and a honey-wheat roll. For starters, Keifel tried the Pecan Fried Catfish Filets with a white been tapenade, tabasco aioli and beet relish. I love that Paquette has a thing for beets. I think they are woefully underused. I had the French Laundry Salad, an homage to Thomas Keller with arugula, radicchio, apples, fennel, hazelnuts, and bleu cheese lightly dressed witha Champagne vinaigrette.
Keifel’s catfish was crisp and tender, set off perfectly by the tapenade. I am not a huge fan of bottom feeders, but I greatly enjoyed my nibbles of the catfish. My salad was an ample portion and came mounded on a clear glass plate with little mounds of cracked black pepper at the corners. The blue cheese was soft and creamy and punctuated the bitter lettuces of the salad perfectly.
For our entrees, we both wanted to try something other than what we’d had last time. I chose the Grilled Duck Breast with date nut filo cigar, fig mole, and four peppercorn apple chutney. Keifel had the Iberian Pork Tenderloin layered with housemade chorizo, caramelized onions, Idiazabal cheese, potatoes and Spanish mountain sauce. The duck breast was just this side of rare and had a pleasant gaminess that was offset by the chutney and a scattering of softly stewed cranberries. The date nut cigar was crisp and creamy and was just enough of an accompaniment. Keifel’s pork was cooked moist and juicy. The chorizo and cheese made a savory crust over the top that was in my opinion worth the price of admission. The sauce and potatoes again were just enough of an accompanient to let the pork be the star of the show. Kiefel chose a Pinot Grigio as his wine and I asked the server what she recommended with the pork. The wine she chose was a big, jammy Zinfandel that held its own against the duck.
We both saved room for dessert. The choices included a tangental take on creme brulee, a warm nut tart, a trio of housemade sorbets and the dessert special. Our server recommended the special (there was only one left). It was the only chocolate option. I warmed chocolate baby cake filled with chocolate mousse and topped with a fudge sauce and fresh bing cherries. Oh my. It was good, though it didn’t come warm to the table. The mousse was deeply chocolately and not too airy. I also had a cup of coffee that was divinely smooth.
I know I have just spent a long time gushing and no time criticizing, but it was just that good. The space is beautifully decorated and though noisy our corner’s acoustics allowed Keifel and I to talk in a normal conversational tone without difficulty. The service was remarkable in that everything appeared and was cleared with military timing and minimal intrusion into our conversation. Plus, she was spot on with her wine recommendation.
If you find yourself in Nashville on an evening and you have around $100 for an excellent dinner for two, I couldn’t recommend Zola more highly.
3001 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203
Cross Street: 29th Avenue S
Phone: (615) 320-7778
Fax: (615) 320-6030